“To me, at least in retrospect, the really interesting question is why dullness proves to be such a powerful impediment to attention. Why we recoil from the dull. Maybe it’s because dullness is intrinsically painful; maybe that’s where phrases like ‘deadly dull’ or ‘excrutiatingly dull’ come from. But there might be more to it. Maybe dullness is associated with psychic pain because something that’s dull or opaque fails to provide enough stimulation to distract people from some other, deeper type of pain that is always there, if only in an ambient low-level way, and which most of us spend nearly all our time and energy trying to distract ourselves from feeling, or at least from feeling directly or with our full attention. Admittedly, the whole thing’s pretty confusing, and hard to talk about abstractly…but surely something must lie behind not just Muzak in dull or tedious places anymore but now also actual TV in waiting rooms, supermarkets’ checkouts, airports’ gates, SUVs’ backseats. Walkmen, iPods, BlackBerries, cell phones that attach to your head. This terror of silence with nothing diverting to do. I can’t think anyone really believes that today’s so-called ‘information society’ is just about information. Everyone knows it’s about something else, way down.”—David Foster Wallace, The Pale King
Another gray day—not the weather, me. Sometimes I feel as if I have my own personal rain cloud hovering over my head at all times, an unconscious mechanism that spurs me to inspect, dissect, anything and anyone I love for flaws. And once these flaws are found (because they surely exist somewhere) I feel satisfied in a twisted way, like I’ve proved to myself that loving anything is impossible because look at this flaw, and this one.
She sighed, watching the girls around her, their eyes fixed intently on the screen. They were watching a romance film, and although it kept the other girls transfixed she couldn’t help but think, Falling in love doesn’t seem like an awfully big adventure.
every few years, the circus comes to her town. it’s the biggest event of the year, not much happens in small town usa, nineteen fifty-nine besides it. one evening, she walked into town, bedraggled, and watched a boy care for the elephants and an old man apply pasty makeup. she carried a small carpetbag in hand containing two shirts, one pair of pants, her toothbrush, and three nancy drew novels. she concocted her plan the last time her father hit her (while her mother screamed) and saw a ripped flyer on the driveway, embossed with metallic letters advertising “the most spectacular show on earth, featuring tigers, elephants, tight-rope walkers, clowns, and more”. her plan was to join the circus, maybe as a young clown or an animal trainer’s assistant, and never look back at her dirty speck of a town, and its narrow-minded people. she thought of her teacher, miss gertrude, who shamed her in front of her whole fourth-grade class for drawing a heart around lindsay lexington’s yearbook photo, her best friend, lisa jenkins, who forced her into stealing rock candy from the grocery store, and her own parents, who called her a stupid little slut when they saw her marks on the tests she’d brought home. she was eleven years old, and there was no one earth quite so lonely. but as she walked toward the old man to ask if please is there any way at all i could join you, i’m packed and everything she is overcome by a gripping fear and thinks to herself of the stupidity and desperation of this situation. and she’s saddened and horrified by the fact that even though she hates everything she has she cannot turn and leave it all behind, she cannot simply hop onto a caravan filled with tigers and never turn back.
Let me hold onto this day; where the sun shone, but not too brightly, and I read a novel that made the world seem wider than my line of sight would allow, and I ate raspberries bursting with flavor, and I, for once, felt content with myself.
“It was, he thought, the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high. Some people, perhaps, would say that there was little to choose between the two ways, but Dumbledore knew - and so do I, thought Harry, with a rush of fierce pride, and so did my parents - that there was all the difference in the world.”—J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
It’s nights like these where I stare out the window and wish there was more to me. I sit in bed and listen to the ancient ceiling fan creak slightly as it makes its rounds and the sounds of my sisters watching TV in the next bedroom over. And I feel so tragically inadequate. It’s as if I’m a clothesline, swinging limply, just a placeholder in a world that occupies great people and things. I am ugly, boring, and manipulative; it must have been a mistake, a terrible mistake, to allow me existence as a human being. I deserve to be a garden snake, or a sewer rat, something of impotence and nuisance. My mother comes in to ask if I want lasagna for dinner tonight and I consider beginning to starve myself, just so I can disappear, but I know I would simply feel hungry and eat cold leftovers in the middle of the night, cursing my willpower. I am cold, emotionless; I am unable to agree with my own heart so I choose to switch it off altogether instead. I wish I lived in the desert so I could feel the ecstasy of rain.
“After being conditioned as a child to lovely never-never lands of magic, of fairy queens and virginal maidens, of little princes and their rose bushes, of poignant bears and Eeyore-ish donkeys, of life personalized, as the pagans loved it, of the magic wand, and the faultless illustrations—the beautiful dark-haired child (who was you) winging through the midnight sky on a star-path in her mothers box of reels…all this I knew, I felt, I believed. All this was my life when I was young. To go from this the world of “grown up” reality. To feel the tender skin of sensitive child-fingers thicken; to feel the sex organs develop and call loud to the flesh; to become aware of school, exams (the very word as unlovely as the shrill sound of chalk shrilling on the blackboard,) bread and butter, marriage, sex, compatibility, war, economics, death, and self. What a pathetic blighting of the beauty and reality of childhood. Not to be sentimental, as I sound, but why the hell are we conditioned into the smooth strawberry-and-cream Mother Goose world, Alice-in-Wonderland fable, only to be broken on the wheel as we grow older and become aware of ourselves as individuals with a dull responsibility in life?”—Sylvia Plath
I want to build something with my bare hands, something out of wood, like a house. Something real, that exposes itself in front of my eyes, that I can touch. So I can look at it, and know, I created this, and this is a useful creation… So unlike something written, which, although created through the use of one’s hands, does not change the weight of anything at all.
I don’t believe in angels, I don’t believe in saving, it’s Saturday night and I’m alone now and it seems that I will be for the rest of my life whenever I want not to be. But you can’t magick a person up to be with you for the random intervals that you want someone, you have to want them for the rest of the time, too. I suppose I’d rather be lonely once in a while.
“How we need that security! How we need another soul to cling to, another body to keep us warm. To rest and trust; to give your soul in confidence: I need this, I need someone to pour myself into. Maybe I need a man. One sure thing, I haven’t met him yet.”—Sylvia Plath
Sometimes, inspiration finds you. You don’t see it coming in the distance. Perhaps you didn’t even want it to come at all. You weren’t expecting it, not at this hour. Regardless, it slams into you so roughly you’re knocked to the ground. You don’t move to get up, you just sit there, swearing, until you grudgingly pull out your phone and type something quickly into your notes.
You’re never grateful enough for those times, you always seem to realize later. Because usually you have to hunt desperately for inspiration, bringing along not only a net but a firearm of some kind, dog treats, and a mousetrap. And the damn thing still puts up an exhausting fight.